Special election: Will Fred Barnes, Katherine Webb or the 10 Commandments Judge pick Alabama’s next congressman?

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes cut a campaign ad for a candidate in this congressional race. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum have also made endorsements.

The chief justice of Alabama’s supreme court — long known as the “Ten Commandments Judge” — supports another candidate. And Katherine Webb, the beauty queen and model famous for dating University of Alabama football quarterback AJ McCarron, even shook up the race last week with an endorsement of her own.

You may not be following the special election to fill the open U.S. House seat for Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, but an unusual amount of well-known folks are. And candidates are working hard to capitalize on these endorsements before party primaries for the heavily-Republican district Tuesday.

Nine Republicans are on the ballot, and therefore no one is expected to win more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday. A run-off is scheduled for Nov. 5 for the top two finishers of Tuesday’s race.

Most campaigns acknowledge that former Alabama gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne — who was endorsed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush when he ran for governor in 2010 — seems guaranteed a spot in the Republican run-off. Therefore, the real question heading into Tuesday is which candidate will face Byrne in November’s run-off election.

A poll released last week showed Byrne with 34 percent of the vote — about 20 points ahead of the candidate in second place.

The four Republicans seen as having the best shot at making it into the run-off include conservative columnist Quin Hillyer, former Republican National Committee aide Wells Griffith, businessman Dean Young and Alabama State Rep. Chad Fincher.


When it comes to endorsements from national conservatives, no one comes close to matching the number of supporters boasted by Hillyer, who has written for The American Spectator, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times and Mobile Press-Register.

Soon after Hillyer announced his candidacy, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum jumped on board. Hillyer has since been endorsed by former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox; former NRA President David Keene; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; Weekly Standard editors Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes; National Review editor Rich Lowry; Citizens United President David Bossie; Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis; former Virginia Gov. George Allen; RedState.com editor Erick Erickson; Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin; Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and conservative commentator Mary Matalin.


The 31-year-old Griffith — who most recently traveled the country during the 2012 campaign with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus— also landed the other most prominent national endorsement of the race: former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

But it was the endorsement of another well-known Alabamian that has gotten, perhaps, the most attention. Last week, Katherine Webb — the former former Miss Alabama and current girlfriend of University of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron — made her preference for Griffith known. “He will do great things for our country,” she tweeted. “Great guy and great family!”


If any candidate is trying to use the support of a single person to catapult themselves into the run-off, it’s Dean Young. The businessman and past candidate for Congress was endorsed by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore at the beginning of the race.

Young’s strategy is clear: He needs to motivate Moore’s ardent social conservative supporters to vote for him. In a campaign television ad, the narrator said, “Dean stood with Judge Moore in his epic battle against the ACLU.”

Moore — known as the “Ten Commandments Judge” — was removed from his position as chief justice in 2003 for refusing to move a Ten Commandments monument from the state’s judicial building. He was re-elected to the seat in 2012.


Fincher, a state representative, cannot boast the support of national figures like the others in the contest. But he has benefited from a national conservative political action committee, which has poured thousands of dollars into the race.

The group GOPAC — chaired by former Reagan administration political adviser Frank Donatelli— endorsed Fincher last month.

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